My First Time
It's actually a surprise to me that I've lived this long - a grand total of 24 years - without bribing anyone. My first time bribing someone all on my lonesome was a few days ago. It was an interesting experience, and I suddenly understand something fundamental about this system - it works. So what is the difference between tipping and bribing? A tip is something you give someone for a service they have already done properly, whereas a bribe is giving a token amount to someone to do their job, which they should be doing anyway. So they either hold it over your head demanding a bribe (this often happens) or you coerce them to give you unfair preference with more money. Clearly unethical.
So these are my excuses: I was tired, I was not getting a taxi, the bus on my route was so crowded I couldn't get in, and I didn't want to "hang out" as people often do. My entire journey home was going to take me two hours, which is my daily commute, and I was tired. Taxi's were refusing to go the train station because its too close - only a 15 Rs. fare. So I offered the tenth refusing taxi 50 Rs. I thought, that's a nice round number, and Voila, it worked. Awesomeness, special treatment (he dropped me all the way into the station, which never happens) ensued. This is not an anecdote on how everyone should start bribing the evil taxi wallah's, but an honest account on why this happens.
You could also quite easily say that I haven't done anything wrong, this isn't the bribing the government type of thing, or the "criminal" type of bribing. But our easy tolerance and acceptance of this system reflects how deeply ingrained this is in our society. Everyone gives it, everyone accepts it, it is unsurprising. It's common practice to bribe a traffic cop when you're caught cutting a light or worse, most of my friends do it. I usually avoid such situations because I don't drive and when a taxi acts pricey, I'd rather take the trouble to find out which buses ply that route and move on. Eventually though, such a situation seems unavoidable.